HC Deb 30 May 1808 vol 11 cc717-9

The house then went into a committee on the Local Militia bill. On the reading of the nineteenth clause, allowing volunteers to transfer themselves into local militia,

Mr. Spencer Stanhope

stated that a person might remove from one district to another where there would be no ballot, and where he could not get into a volunteer corps, they being full. This man being perfectly free, would receive more wages than the other.—Nothing was done on this suggestion.

On the reading of the twentieth clause, providing that an oath shall be taken by every volunteer entering into the local militia, that he had received no bounty except the two guineas allowed by the act, Mr. C. Wynne observed that in this case a strong temptation to perjury existed, and there was every opportunity for evasion; he therefore objected to the oath. He contended that the frequency with which oaths were administered had much diminished their influence on the public mind, especially when they were administered in cases where there was every temptation to perjury.—Mr. Windham, Mr. W. Smith, Mr. Wilberforce, sir S. Romilly, sir T. Turton, and Mr. Stephens, joined with Mr. Wynne, in his representation of the mischievous effects that resulted to the community from the frequency of appointing oaths to be taken in improper cases,; and declared their conviction of the soundness of the common law principle, which prohibits oaths being taken by persons strongly interested in the cause.—Lord Castlereagh agreed that the oath should be left out, and that the clause should remain with the provision that a declaration to the same purport should be signed by the volunteer, with a penalty of 20l. if false.

In the twenty second clause, exempting persons who shall have served four years in the local militia from being liable to serve therein again for four years after, two amendments were proposed. One was, that instead of the term of the exemption for four years, the exemption should be till the turn came by rotation. The other, proposed by lord Milton, was, that one who served four years in the local militia should be for two years, subsequent to the close of that period, exempt from the regular militia ballot. Both were agreed to.

Upon one of the clauses, lord Milton moved as an amendment, that the officers commanding in the local militia should have the same qualification in point of property, with officers of the same rank in the regular militia. Lord Castlereagh having opposed the amendment, the committee divided upon it:

Ayes 31; Noes 107.—Majority 70.

Lord Temple objected to the clause subjecting the Local Militia to martial law, when called out on temporary duty, and proposed, that a court martial should have the power of inflicting upon them any punishment, excepting corporal punishment, which should not be inflicted upon them without the consent of his majesty, conveyed through the lord lieutenant of the county. Lord Castlereagh contended, that it would be improper to hare one law for the Regular, and another law for the Local Militia. Lord Temple afterwards moved a clause, providing that no sentence imposing a corporal punishment should be carried into execution, till it had received the approbation of his majesty. The clause was supported by Mr. Windham, Mr. C. W. Wynne, sir G. Warrender, and Mr. Lyttleton; and opposed by sir James Pulteney, the Solicitor General for Scotland, Mr. Ellison, and Mr. R. Dundas. On a division, the numbers were: For the Amendment 14; against it 101.—Majority against the Amendment 87. Several verbal amendments were made in the progress of the bill through the committee. The house resumed, and the Report was brought up, with an understanding that the bill should be recommitted on Friday next, so far as respects the new clauses proposed by lord Castlereagh.